Footage shows F-35Bs launching from the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth as the vessel and her air wing join the fight against Islamic State.
These are the first ever combat sorties flown from the carrier.
The Ministry of Defence say that stealth jets of the renowned 617 Squadron RAF (The Dambusters) carried out operational sorties for the first time in support of Operation Shader and US Operation Inherent Resolve.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said:
“The ability to operate from the sea with the most advanced fighter jets ever created is a significant moment in our history, offering reassurance to our allies and demonstrating the UK’s formidable air power to our adversaries. The Carrier Strike Group is a physical embodiment of Global Britain and a show of international military strength that will deter anyone who seeks to undermine global security.”
The Royal Navy say in a news release:
“From exercises and international engagements, it is now delivering its full might of naval and air power, putting the “strike” into Carrier Strike Group and contributing to the UK’s fight against Daesh.”
Commodore Steve Moorhouse, Commander United Kingdom Carrier Strike Group, said:
“HMS Queen Elizabeth’s first missions against Daesh will be remembered as a significant moment in the 50-year lifespan of this ship. It also marks a new phase of our current deployment. To date we have delivered diplomatic influence on behalf of the UK through a series of exercises and engagements with our partners – now we are ready to deliver the hard punch of maritime-based air power against a shared enemy. The involvement of HMS Queen Elizabeth and her Air Wing in this campaign also sends a wider message. It demonstrates the speed and agility with which a UK-led Carrier Strike Group can inject fifth generation combat power into any operation, anywhere in the world, thereby offering the British Government, and our allies, true military and political choice.”
Captain James Blackmore, Commander of the Carrier Air Wing, added:
“The Lightning Force is once again in action against Daesh, this time flying from an aircraft carrier at sea, which marks the Royal Navy’s return to maritime strike operations for the first time since the Libya campaign a decade ago. With its fifth generation capabilities, including outstanding situational awareness, the F-35B is the ideal aircraft to deliver precision strikes, which is exactly the kind of mission that 617 Squadron has been training for day-after-day, night-after-night, for these past few months. This is also notable as the first combat mission flown by US aircraft from a foreign carrier since HMS Victorious in the South Pacific in 1943. The level of integration between Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and US Marine Corps is truly seamless, and testament to how close we’ve become since we first embarked together last October.”
There are 18 UK and US F-35 Lightning jets on board HMS Queen Elizabeth, which is the largest number of fifth generation combat aircraft to ever sail the seas.
What is the UK Carrier Strike Group doing?
HMS Queen Elizabeth is the deployed flag ship for Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG21), a deployment that will see the ship and her escorts sail to the Asia-Pacific and back.
The Carrier Strike Group includes ships from the United States Navy, the Dutch Navy, and Marines from the US Marine Corps. As well as British frigates, destroyers, a submarine, two RFA supply ships and air assets from 617 Sqn, 820 NAS, 815 NAS and 845 NAS.
CSG21 will see the ship along with the Strike Group work with over 40 countries from around the world. The Strike Group will operate and exercise with other countries Navies and Air Forces during the 7 month deployment.